Archive: Belle Isle Nature Zoo’s Mudpuppypalooza Celebrates Detroit River Salamander

February 12, 2016

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

DETROIT, Mich. – “Snot otter” and “slime dog” may sound like something kids call each other on the playground, but they’re actually names for the mudpuppy – a large, permanently aquatic salamander native to the Detroit River. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo will host its annual event to celebrate mudpuppies on Saturday, March 5, 2016, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mudpuppypalooza will feature fun and educational activities such as mask-making, games and mudpuppy cookie decorating. The event will also include zookeeper talks and the opportunity to view mudpuppies up close while learning about the species and conservation efforts on its behalf.

In 2006, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) embarked on a program to monitor the Detroit River mudpuppies, conducting catch-and-release surveys to track and better understand local mudpuppy populations. Mudpuppies are measured, weighed and implanted with small computer chips for identification before being returned to the river.

“While not a threatened species, mudpuppies are considered good environmental indicators of pollution and other potentially harmful changes in the ecosystem,” said DZS Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter. “The information gathered in our mudpuppy surveys provides a valuable baseline for monitoring the health of the Detroit River ecosystem.”

The mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) is the second-largest salamander in the western hemisphere and is considered an important part of Michigan’s aquatic ecosystem. Although the mudpuppy has lungs, it relies instead on the bushy gills behind its head to breathe under water. The slippery salamander is typically brownish-gray with dark spots and a yellowish belly. A mature mudpuppy ranges in size from 8 to 15 inches.